How $4.8 million has revived Columbus softball complex ahead of international tourney

Officials put finishing touches on South Commons Softball Complex renovation project

The South Commons Softball Complex has undergone a major facelift just in time for an international softball tournament set for July 1-7. The renovation has been a huge undertaking. Here's how some of the $5.6 Million budget was spent.
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The South Commons Softball Complex has undergone a major facelift just in time for an international softball tournament set for July 1-7. The renovation has been a huge undertaking. Here's how some of the $5.6 Million budget was spent.

Columbus’ 25-year-old South Commons Softball Complex has recently undergone a major facelift just in time for an international softball tournament set for July 1-7.

With a budget of $4.8 million, $3 million of that coming from city coffers, the renovation has been a huge undertaking for the city parks and recreation department and the Columbus Sports Council.

“We anticipate spending close to ($3 million) for all costs to include design and construction services,” Deputy City Manager Pam Hodge said Monday.

The complex was first identified as a potential site for the ESPN-televised USA Softball International Cup last year, and local officials quickly identified the need for significant upgrades to the facility for not only that tournament but for the dozens of other events held throughout the season.

The following are the top 10 expenses that were incurred bringing the complex back up to its former glory. Some numbers are approximations as not all of the work has been completed, and the listing is not a complete description of every improvement that was made.

City expenses

$640,000 was spent on architectural improvements throughout the stadium.

According to Ryan Pruett, project engineer for Columbus Consolidated Government, that work included “pressure washing and painting of the entire structure including press box and hospitality rooms, resealing of all joints, new traffic coating on the stadium seating area, new toilet partitions and accessories, new acoustical tile ceiling, new dugout equipment and new flooring.”

$515,000 went to field improvements at the stadium field, or Field 7. The work included a drainage system, irrigation, sod and infield material.

“It also includes new fencing around the stadium, new netting behind home plate and the addition of bullpens down each baseline,” Pruett said.

$400,000 was spent on new HVAC and plumbing improvements, including all new HVAC equipment.

“This also includes all new plumbing fixtures in all bathrooms and new drinking fountains with water bottle filling stations,” Pruett said.

$350,000 was used for site improvements outside of Field 7. Pruett said this work included new sidewalks and landscaping and irrigation.

“It also includes new storm drainage infrastructure that ties into the new field drainage system,” he said.

$230,000 went to electrical improvements, including a new generator, fire alarm system, lighting throughout the stadium and a sound system.

$163,000 was allocated for new seating in the stadium.

$130,000 was spent on new roofs for the buildings under the grandstand. Those four buildings house the bathrooms, concessions and storage areas.

Sports Council expenses

$525,028 was spent on lighting for the fields. According to Parks and Recreation Director Holli Browder, the installation of new LED lighting will save the city money in the long run and won’t create overshadowing.

“If you go out on Victory Drive and there is a game going on at night, the lights will not shine out on Victory Drive any longer, they only shine down into playing surface,” Browder said before Columbus Council last week. “There is also a light at the bottom called ‘uplighting’ that is a totally different look to traditional lighting.”

$483,150 was allocated to architect, design and construction management fees.

$280,000 went to field work for Fields 6 and 8.

Other large expenses included $148,500 for fiber internet to allow for streaming of games and events; $95,000 for new kitchen equipment; $60,000 for legal and consulting fees; $36,000 for a 6-foot portable fence; $30,000 for site surveys and around $15,000 for scoreboard modifications.

Sports Council Executive Director Merri Sherman said the council received a certificate of occupancy to move back into the building on Monday.

She also said the council is planning more renovations, which are dependent on ongoing fundraising efforts. The sports council has raised $2.2 million so far, with more pledged, Sherman said. Batting cages and additional seating for Fields 6 and 8 are on the radar for future phases of renovation.

“The private sector really stepped up on this renovation, we couldn’t have done it without their support,” Sherman said. “The city stepped up make sure Columbus represented well.”

Where did the money come from?

The softball complex was completed for about $3 million in 1994 with money from the 1993 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, and the $3.5 million stadium was built after the 1996 Olympic softball competition.

In August, Sherman presented Columbus Council with plans for a public-private partnership to make the renovations to the eight-field complex, focusing on the stadium and two fields that flank it.

In October, Columbus Council voted to borrow $7 million in bonds issued by the Columbus Building Authority. While $2.5 million was put toward remedying safety issues at the Government Center and $1 million toward planning a new center to replace it, $3 million was allocated to upgrade the complex.

Since the funds were approved, crews have been working on a crunched schedule to get the renovations done by June 27.

The international cup expedited the process of the much-needed repairs, Sherman said, which will help sustain the complex and its economic impact by continuing to draw teams and competitions.

In 2017, Sherman told council the complex had an economic impact of $4.62 million. According to information in the Sports Council archives, since 1995, the economic impact of the softball on Columbus has been $147.75 million.

The venue draws about 9,556 out-of-town visitors annually and is used by more than 2,720 local residents, according to information Sherman provided to council.

The sports council is estimating a $1 million economic impact from the event.

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Allie Dean is the Columbus city government and accountability reporter for the Ledger, and also writes about new restaurants, developments and issues important to readers in the Chattahoochee Valley. She’s a graduate of the University of Georgia.